Recordings of Ravel's Piano Trio in F, completed at the start of the first World War, are a dime a dozen. Recordings of Saint-Saens's Trio in E minor of 22 years earlier are rather more scarce. Ravel's creative spirit was fastidious and self-critical, Saint-Saens's free-flowing and irresistible. As Romain Rolland kindly wrote of Saint-Saens in 1908, "He brings into the midst of our present restlessness something of the sweetness and clarity of past periods, something that seems like fragments of a vanished world." Ravel was happy to stand up for Schoenberg in war-time France. Saint-Saens balked at what Debussy was composing in the 1890s. Ravel's sole trio is full of secrets. Saint-Saens's second, recorded here, might almost have none.
The members of the Sitkovetsky Trio, who are no strangers to Irish audiences, find the colours and ebb and flow to bring out the mystery in the Ravel, and the argumentative clarity to energise the Saint-Saens, though the work does, it has to be said, remind one of the downside the the composer’s contention that he composed “like an apple tree produces apples”. Not all perfectly shaped and shaded apples are guaranteed to be full of flavour.